Friday, May 7, 2010

Doubt

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Why do I want to be a chef? I've been asking myself that a lot lately and the answer is getting harder and harder to find. It used to be that I loved to cook because I felt like it was the only place in the world where I felt at ease, where I was in control and successful. That rush you get when someone eats something you make and experiences pleasure can only be beaten by the look that they get when you have shown them how to make it. Maybe all chefs are emotion junkies, I mean the kitchen is rife with its drama's and adrenaline as well as ego. I don't know...I'm beginning to think I made the wrong decision pursuing this dream.

I did good in school, honest I did. I was on the President's list all four semesters, carried an average that didn't dip below ninety percent. I asked questions, took notes, but now I feel like that was all for nothing. The pastry chef at the restaurant disdains those who go to culinary school rather than work in a kitchen. He sarcastically poo poo's the things I've learned as being wrong, or time consuming. Why do you need that thermometer to take the temp of your sugar? Why are your knife skills so horrible? Why are you so slow? You'll never get hired at a restaurant if you keep doing it that way.

But I've never wanted to be a restaurant chef, I want to reply. My dreams don't lay in serving people awesome food; I want to show them how to make it. I want to give them the ability to go out and create these things they pay us $200 a two top for. Once they see how easy it is, how rewarding it is to make things instead of heading to the drive thru they will care what goes into their mouths and we'll be giving them something more valuable than a full stomach. But I don't say that, because in five weeks he has managed to pretty much kill my culinary spirit.

I feel powerless in the kitchen now, whatever I do is almost doomed to fail. He was off yesterday but called the line cook (who is 18, has never been to school and admits to now knowing jack about pastry and not caring to learn really) to bake a birthday cake that was ordered for tonight. He gave him instructions that I wasn't to bake it, because he has never had a pastry student who could bake a cake correctly from the school. But the intern had to work the line right? And I know how to bake a cake, so I made it, and sure enough, even though I baked it for an hour the middle fell, more than likely because everyone in the kitchen including me kept opening the oven to see how it was coming. They don't want me to be yelled at anymore then I want to get yelled at. I suppose yelling is the wrong word, it's not yelling. It is talking in a condescending manner that makes you feel like an ant, or worse, like a failure. It's the way my ex-husband talked to me when he wanted to put me in my place, a slap to the face without raising your hand. The bruise is verbal not physical but it still hurts.

And then he (the line cook) said that the night before, my night off, the pastry chef had spent pretty much the entire night harping on the failures of culinary students, myself included. Some part of me knows that it is jealousy that he couldn't hack it in school or was afraid to try and that is his problem. Part of me knows that this guy is a shitty pastry chef himself. Mario Battali said in an interview that a chef who yells at his staff, belittles them, does so because he is filled with self loathing. That he yells because he realizes he didn't do a good enough job training them how to do their job. The great Battali is probably right, I mean the man owns 14 restaurants and has countless cookbooks, TV shows, etc. Emotion however, often over rules logic.

I come home depressed every night now, my wonderful and supportive boyfriend makes me tea and tells me that I am a wonderful cook as I remind myself that there is no crying in culinary; that every Napoleon has a Waterloo. The sadness leads to anger, because essentially this guy is making me dread the thing I love, food.

I need to leave this internship, immediately. I just don't know what to do.

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